By Erik Wasson - 05/03/11 12:02 AM EDT
A Senate vote on the House budget resolution authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) “probably” won’t happen this week, a Democratic aide told The Hill on Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has vowed to force a vote on the Ryan budget in part because Democrats see a political advantage in getting Senate Republicans to go on the record supporting a resolution that calls for turning Medicare into a type of voucher system.
Reid said on the Senate floor Monday that the Senate will first deal with a small-business bill and then with subsidies for oil companies before turning to the Ryan budget.
Cutting Medicare spending to balance the federal budget is highly unpopular with voters, according to a new poll conducted for The Hill. Fifty-three percent of likely voters oppose any cuts, and 14 percent were unsure.
Decisions on the timing of the budget votes were to be made at a leadership meeting Monday, one aide said.
The Senate has been focused on a small-business bill that is being held up by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). She is demanding a vote on an amendment designed to change the way regulations affecting small businesses are issued.
The Ryan budget vote will be difficult for centrist Republicans. Already, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said she does not support the plan, which also cuts Medicaid and welfare.
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed to force a potentially embarrassing vote on President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal, which the president has cast aside in favor of deeper deficit cuts.
A Republican aide said that vote would come when Democrats bring some budget resolution to the floor.
In a deal earlier this year, Reid agreed to allow a more open amendment process on the Senate floor in exchange for a reduction in holds and filibusters from the minority.
That deal is being threatened by Snowe’s fight with Reid, an aide said.
An ugly Ryan budget vote could also complicate bipartisan talks by the Gang of Six, which is striving to release a deficit-reduction proposal this month.
Concord Coalition Executive Director Bob Bixby said that if Republicans take the Ryan budget vote seriously, it could damage the Gang of Six talks.
The Ryan plan eschews tax increases and largely exempts the military from spending cuts, and the vote could push Republicans into embracing that approach.
In this partisan atmosphere, Republican “gang” members Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) would be under pressure to vote for the Ryan plan and to stop negotiating, he said.
Bixby said, however, that he thinks the GOP will treat the Ryan vote as a “political stunt” and simply vote against it on procedural grounds. The GOP would argue that it is not a Senate-crafted budget resolution and Reid should not have the power to put a House budget on the floor, he said.
Steve Bell of the Bipartisan Policy Center said the Reid move “creates more scar tissue” in the Senate and will make raising the debt ceiling and coming to a bipartisan agreement more difficult. He said he can see Republicans voting against the Ryan budget on procedural grounds to avoid the tough vote, however.